The Daily Illini

Vigil sheds light on daily micro-aggressions

By Natalie Stewart

Though the annual vigil is usually a silent demonstration, this year, the fraternity is encouraging students to share their personal stories.

“I felt as though, with certain issues, silence wasn’t really enough to capture and raise awareness about the voices that were trying to be heard,” said Frantz Jacquesbr, the primary coordinator for the event and Alpha Phi Alpha’s Historian.

To create a safe space, students were given an opportunity to submit their personal accounts to an online Dropbox accountbr. They can either read them aloud at the vigil or have another individual present them instead. Their experiences will capture racism, discrimination and micro-aggressions on the University campus.

Ronald Lewisbr, who is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha as well as the co-coordinator for the event, said his main goal for this program is to serve as a liaison between students and faculty.

“I think sometimes some students might not have the resources to certain parties, to certain administrators, to certain police officers that they might want to say something to… and really (we) just try to help the community to give them the space and environment to kind of just talk to the people that represent them,” Lewis said.

Barbara Wilson, interim vice president and chancellorbr, and Renée Romano, vice chancellor for student affairs and associate vice chancellorsbr, agreed to sit-in on the event to show support and hear about the issues concerning their student body.

In addition to verbal accounts of stories, Jacques said he hopes visual presentations will gain the attention of passersby and encourage their engagement as well.

“We create a silent demonstration by making posters with certain statistics, certain facts, certain myths, and we stand on the Quad at the Anniversary Plaza,” Jacques said. “We get about 10 students to hold these posters up with tape over their mouths, and we usually bind them, connect everyone standing with chains to represent being shackled down and us not being able to be heard. …That’s why we put tape over their mouths.”

Jacques also said members of all communities are encouraged to participate in the event, regardless of whether they are subject to micro-aggressions or are the micro-aggressors.

Taylor Walkerbr, sophomore in LAS, said she thinks the vigil will be a great unifying agent for the minority communities on campus.

“It’s different because racism can seem like something distant that happens to other people in other places, but the stories shared will be things that actually happened on our campus,” Walker said. “I think the stories we’ll hear will motivate us to keep pushing for change on campus.”

The vigil will start at 5 p.m. at the Anniversary Plaza on the Quadbr.

“We have a wide variety of voices that are going to now be able to use this platform to reach out to everyone else in the audience and let them know what they’ve been experiencing … hopefully to raise awareness so that these experiences can be limited and hopefully one day cease,” Jacques said.

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